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UT Tyler Receives State Comptroller Grant to Help Preserve Texas-Based Crayfish 

DR. RYAN SHARTAU

TYLER, Texas (March 27, 2024) – The University of Texas at Tyler received $180,371 from the state comptroller’s office to study Texas-based crayfish and help improve conservation efforts for the  species. Dr. Ryan Shartau, UT Tyler assistant professor of biology, serves as principal investigator on  the two-year research project. 

Shartau and the UT Tyler team will collect live crayfish and measure environmental conditions at  collection sites in Atascosa, Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Fayette, Frio, La Salle, Lee and Wilson  Counties. They will examine how well crayfish species that are of conservation concern respond to  changes in temperature, dissolved oxygen and water acidity. 

Large changes in these environmental variables, Shartau noted, can hurt crayfish and cause their  populations to decrease, which in turn will harm other species that rely on them for food. 

“Loss of crayfish species is likely to have severe consequences on ecosystems, as they are among  the most important organisms in most streams due to their biomass and their role for prey for over  200 aquatic, terrestrial and avian species,” said Shartau. “This research will help scientists and  regulatory agencies understand the environmental conditions crayfish in Texas can tolerate so that  effective conservation strategies can be enacted to manage the crayfish.” 

Globally, over one-third of crayfish species are threatened, and little is known about their status in  Texas, Shartau said, noting that many of the Texas-based crayfish species are listed as “Species of  Greatest Conservation Need” –– meaning they are either in decline or rare and require research to  assist conservation action.  

“There is little known about crayfish physiology, and nothing known about the physiology of  crayfish found in Texas,” Shartau added. “This project is very exciting as these results will be  important for helping protect these fascinating animals.” 

UT Tyler students will play important roles in the project by being involved with crayfish care, field  collections and physiology experiments in his lab at the university. 

Shartau joined the UT Tyler biology faculty in 2021. His research focuses on aquatic life, including fish and crayfish. He holds a doctorate in zoology from the University of British Columbia in  Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and a Master of Science in biological sciences from the  University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. 

With a mission to improve educational and health care outcomes for East Texas and beyond, UT  Tyler offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 10,000 students. 

Through its alignment with UT Tyler Health Science Center and UT Health East Texas, UT Tyler has  unified these entities to serve Texas with quality education, cutting-edge research and excellent  patient care. Classified by Carnegie as a doctoral research institution and by U.S. News & World  Report as a national university, UT Tyler has campuses in Tyler, Longview, Palestine and Houston. 

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